Orson Ales

The great beer labels of Les Fous

Sigmundo Pieface is one of the world's most formidable cartoon-animal-based beer label designers. It was thus only natural that Don and Tricia should turn to him to design their labels.

Born in Kiev in 1924 and educated at l'Institut de l'Animal de Dessin in Orléans, Pieface came to prominence in the 1950s for his startling caricatures of President de Gaulle's dog Ruby. These were eventually banned by all leading French newspapers because of the distress they caused to France's first family, but not before Pieface had established for himself the reputation of Enfant Terrible du Dessin.

The label for Orson Ale is modelled on Don and Tricia's dog Orson. "It is not a terribly good likeness," admits Pieface, "because the damned dog kept moving about. However, I think I have caught the essence of Orson and that is what is important to the beer.

Tartarin's Top Tipple is named after Don's donkey Tartarin. "I cannot stand donkeys," says Pieface, "so I modelled the design on a toy donkey belonging to the grand-daughter of a close friend of mine."

Old Stoat is called this because in olden times stout used to be called stoat. It is not clear whether stoat was also an ingredient of the beer in those days, nor even if the word bears any relation to its modern usage. "I myself have a pet stoat and so this was the easiest of the designs," Pieface explains. "It was a question of texture and light, primarily, and of course an additional fee for supplying the model."

A whyld is a variety of rabbit indigenous to central Brittany. It has larger than usual front teeth and a propensity to drink copiously. "I tried to talk them out of the rabbit motif," says Pieface, "because I have never really been very good at drawing the ears."

By the time Beyond the Pale was developed, we were running out animals but Pieface suggested a cat as he explains: "In 1976, I had drawn a cat for a client who rejected my design. I have been waiting for an opportunity to use it ever since."